SIMEON S. WILLIS was born in Lawrence County, Ohio on December 1, 1879. His education was attained in the public schools of Lawrence County, Ohio and in the Kentucky public schools, where he took teacher-training courses. After working as a principal in a South Portsmouth, Kentucky school, Willis studied law, and in 1901 was admitted to the bar. Willis entered public service in 1918, serving as the Ashland city solicitor, a position he held until 1922. He also served on the State Board of Bar Examiners from 1922 to 1928, and was judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals from 1927 to 1933. Willis won the 1943 Republican gubernatorial nomination, was elected governor, and sworn into office on December 7, 1943. During his tenure, a commission on Negro affairs was initiated, the first African-American was named to the state board of education, the state parks system was improved, five new state tuberculosis hospitals were built, and an educational bill was sanctioned. Also, a majority of state bridge tolls were abolished, welfare programs were revised, the corrupt practices act was amended, and a postwar planning commission was created. After leaving office on December 9, 1947, Willis returned to his legal career. From 1956 to 1960, he served on the State Parole Board. Governor Simeon S. Willis died on April 2, 1965, and was buried at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.